School of Music


Master of Arts in Music Education (MA)


Kathryn Wert


General Music, High School, Appalachian Folk Music, Murder Ballad, Music Education


Music | Music Education


Murder ballads have been a part of the musical traditions of America since the 1700s, when their source materials were brought from Scandinavia, England, and Scotland. Ballads like “Omie Wise,” “Pretty Polly,” and “The Ballad of Tom Dooley” have been recorded by a variety of artists, and still draw new listeners for commercial success. Despite their historic presence in American music, murder ballads are not often included in the school music curriculum. The content is not always appropriate for elementary or middle school students, but high school students are better equipped to deal with the themes and can often be easily engaged in lessons due to the scandalous topics. This curriculum proposal provides secondary music educators the means to introduce Appalachian folk music, particularly murder ballads, into their general music classroom. Lessons are cross-curricular in nature, allowing educators the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues in the history and language arts departments as well as provide opportunities for students to reinforce skill sets developed in other core classes. At the time of this writing, many public school systems are beginning the school year with either all virtual or a hybrid school schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Options are provided for coursework that can be completed virtually or through in-person instruction. With the undetermined effects that COVID-19 and a shift to virtual instruction will have on the education system, flexibility in curriculum design and implementation will be of the utmost importance.